Shine a Light on Light Pollution
Citizen scientists add to the night sky’s picture
The waning crescent moon rises a few hours before dawn at week’s end, edging closer to the sun before reaching a new phase Tuesday. This week’s dark winter skies coincide with the Great Worldwide Star Count, going on this month through February 21. Sponsored by the GLOBE at Night Foundation, the goal is to enlist 15,000 “citizen scientists” to report their sightings from three constellations, Orion, Leo and Crux. Additional counts go on March 13-22 and April 11-20.
Participating is simple. Start online at globeatnight.org and download a map for each constellation based on your latitude and longitude. Then head outdoors no less than an hour after sunset and see how many stars you can spot. Return to the web-site to enter your data and compare your results to that of other volunteers from around the world.
Now in its sixth year, the Great Worldwide Star Count is the most comprehensive accounting of the night sky, with more than 60,000 people reporting from 115 countries. The data graphically illustrate what we can see — and more importantly what we cannot.
“Light pollution threatens not only our right to starlight, but can affect energy consumption, wildlife and health,” warns the GLOBE at Night website.
This is a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of the night sky. The website provides additional resources for parents and teachers, as well as a section for students with quizzes, projects, experiments and more. You’re welcome to contribute multiple sightings from any or all of the constellations, although you’ll have to be south of the equator to view Crux, the Southern Cross. Instead, focus on hourglass-shaped Orion, striding from the southeast at dusk to the west an hour past midnight.